A great new director with a great and laid back saga that will be too laid back for some but well worth the watchingEmerging writer/director Bob Byington hits the ground running, or is the expression hits the ground slacking with this ultra laid back and ultra low budget comedy of heartbreak, acceptance and near redemption. Justin Rice plays the character named Harmony, which is pretty funny all by itself considering he is so completely out of harmony with his life. Harmony’s problems stem from his break-up with his girl friend, the extremely attractive and contrastingly normal Jessica, played by Kristen Tucker (also a producer for the film). Only they don’t stem completely from the breakup with his girlfriend. No problems so severe and over-arching could ever stem from a romantic train wreck. There has to be something else here at work.
The real reason for Harmony’s repeated arguments to the effect that he is being driven to dissolution by Jessica is another thing entirely. The root cause of his misery is the fact that he is a moron. But a loveable moron all the same. This makes the viewers happy for two reasons. The first reason is that we learn that ending a relationship is not the end of the world. The second reason is that we learn that no matter how many dumb things we do we could never be as bad off as Harmony.
To paraphrase Steve Martin in “The Jerk,” you may think you have gone down as far as you can go but just watch this guy for a while and you will see you have a lot farther down to go.
Throughout the film is Justin Rice’s own music played with the ultimate in humble self-deprecation on the most humble of guitars. Rice’s entire performance sets a new low bar for on-screen slackerness.
If it was Bob Byington’s intent to outdo “Napoleon Dynamite” he didn’t quite make it that far with this film. “Dynamite” was able to leverage the limp wristed lead against more “normal” but even less competent supporting characters. In this way Napoleon won in the end, hands down, Byington doesn’t make it so easy for us. At the end of the film is it hardly clear whether Harmony has won or not. But this is entirely the way it should be because in life, at least for teenagers, there is just no end to the confusion and the heartbreak. At least they don’t have rheumatism and stuff.
Excellent low budget hand-held camera work and excellent supporting work by all of the cast including producer Kristen Tucker. She has a way of reflecting Harmony’s fecklessness right back into his face so that it comes blasting out into the audience like a PA system of hopelessness. Byington gets all of the performers to do more by doing less and as a result the scene comes across with incredible honesty and power.
Will this fine film play in Peoria? Probably not. But it is still one the fresh new efforts that make films worth attending despite the threatened takeover by the special effects studios and the brainless propagation of blood, drug and alcohol driven plots that threatens to push real acting to the margins of the Budweiser commercials.
Carry on, Bob!
Directed and Written by: Bob Byington
Starring: Justin Rice
Release: September 18, 2009
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 75 minutes